Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category


Famous Last Words

There are whole books full of famous people’s last words before they died. They are quite interesting. Here are a few good ones:

“How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
P. T. Barnum, entrepreneur, d. 1891

“That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.”
Lou Costello, comedian, d. March 3, 1959

“Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”
John Barrymore, actor, d. May 29, 1942

“It is very beautiful over there.”
Thomas Alva Edison, inventor, d. October 18, 1931

The Apostle Paul was one of the most influential men in history. His writings have literally changed the world. In Acts Chapter 20, Paul gave his farewell speech to the Christian leaders in the city of Ephesus. He was on his way to Jerusalem where he knew he would probably be arrested, thrown in prison, and maybe killed. He wanted his last words to the Ephesians to be important ones.

In verse 35 he states that,

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

These are words from a formerly aggressive religious leader who would stop at nothing to succeed. His goal had been to wipe out Christianity. He didn’t let anyone stand in his way when he was on a mission, until God got in his way. Paul was a man who had been transformed, humbled, and he felt compelled to pass on the most important lessons that he had learned:

1. We must help the weak.
2. Giving is even better than receiving.

There is something about giving that satisfies us to the very core of our being. The reality of being an American is that even in the midst of a recession, we can have it all and still feel empty. We are inundated with entertainment, media, and instant information. Yet the more we receive, the less satisfied we are.

Even Christians who have accepted the priceless gift of salvation can find themselves feeling emotionally impoverished and unsatisfied. Without a lifestyle of giving, we become black holes that simply swallow up life instead of giving life. A body of water that only has an inlet becomes murky, stagnant and dead. A body of water with an outlet on the other hand is clear, refreshing, and full of life.

The reason I believe that it really is a blessing to give is that it centers us. It realigns our priorities and pulls us into our core, God-given purposes like nothing else can. Ironically, the more we empty ourselves, the more full we become.

Who are we supposed to give to? Paul says it pretty clearly, “Help the weak.” But what if they don’t deserve help?

Volunteers making new friends while serving on the streets with The Relief Bus

We have many people come to serve on The Relief Bus who have never been involved in anything like this in their lives. Some come with preconceived notions about the poor or the homeless. Some may even have a mentality that the poor should just “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” Once they spend time with the poor however, their outlook changes and they start to see that God is moving them to be part of the life transformation process with that person. The closer they get to the needy, the more they can identify and sympathize with them. Hearts mingle and the volunteer finds their own heart being changed.

A fellow follower of Christ put it this way,

“Love of neighbor is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend…Seeing with the eyes of Christ I can give to others much more than their outward necessities: I can give them the look of love which they crave…”

-Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter: On Christian Love (accessed 28, Feb., 2006)

How much should we give? Probably no more than Jesus gives to us. We are the weak ones that He still helps every day.

Fill out a volunteer application to serve on The Relief Bus by clicking HERE. Call 1-800-736-2773 or email to sign up today.

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The Power of Urban Worship

“Worry wears you out more than work, yet people still choose worry over work. Work wears you out more than worship, yet people choose work over worship.” Pastor Anthony Does, Lindsay Ontario

Many people think of worship as a “Sunday morning thing.” Not everyone knows this, but worship plays a major role in the weekly outreaches to the homeless by The Relief Bus. As volunteers ride in on the bus to serve in the Bronx, Harlem or Manhattan, they sing songs of hope, faith and victory. They know that the answer for the broken and hurting is not just more charity. It is a move of God.

The Relief Bus fights the war against poverty, addiction and hopelessness every week. Staff and volunteers aren’t fighting with guns and knives, they brandish the weapons mentioned in 2 Corinthians 10:4. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Sometimes the people we feed and serve in the inner city literally break out in praise on the streets in Spanish or in English. They have found the answer. They can’t trust in money, the economy or their earning power. Despite their circumstances, they look beyond the immediate into the eternal and acknowledge God’s provision through worship. We have a lot to learn from the poor. “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” James 2:5

A woman singing along with some volunteers at The Relief Bus in the Bronx

Some people look at the problems facing the poor and homeless and worry that change is impossible. This worry, anxiety or fear discourages them so much that they just give up hope. Others get to work trying to make a difference, but find that there is so much work to do that they exhaust themselves through overworking. People can become jaded or even burned out this way. There is better way.

In 2 Chronicles 20:12, Jehoshaphat prays, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Scripture goes on to say that as the people of Israel worshipped God, their enemies turned against one another and were destroyed. They turned their eyes from the overwhelming challenge and focused instead on God as the answer.

Worship plays a major role in my life, because it is the way that I can tap directly into the source of life. When I come to the end of myself, which doesn’t take long, I can go to a well that never runs dry. When the battle seems too hard, the challenge too daunting, I get my eyes, my hope and my faith focused back on Jesus through worship. One of the ways I do this is by spending time with The Relief Bus staff weekly on Tuesday mornings, worshipping God and praying together.

Another way we are engaging in worship warfare is by hosting a worship event on August 21 called Concert For The Homeless, featuring Jason Upton and his band. This is a fundraiser for The Relief Bus, but it is also an acknowledgment of God as the answer for the city, the ultimate solution for the poor and homeless. Please join us for this amazing night in the presence of God and focus your eyes on God as the source for your own breakthrough as well.

Jason Upton is one of the most prolific Christian musicians and songwriters of the 21st century. Not known simply as a contemporary or pop artist, Jason is a worship leader that crafts powerful worship songs. For the last eleven years, his concerts have led listeners to encounter God in a fresh way that draws them deeper into the heart of God. See a video of Jason performing live from a past concert in the same venue we are using here.

This special event takes place August 21, at Calvary Tabernacle in Cranford, New Jersey at 6pm. Address: 69 Myrtle Street, Cranford, NJ. Tickets are $12 at the door. An offering will be taken for the homeless. For more info: , 1.800.736.2773, or

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What’s That Smell?

Many speak of the sense of entitlement that the rich or certain politically leaning parties seem to have (both of the big ones). Rarely do we see this in ourselves. I’m not just speaking of entitlement due to belonging to a certain class or because we are Americans, but because we have worked hard and earned what we have. Some of us even feel entitled because we are serious about our spirituality and Christian walk. Entitlement is not something we “feel”. It’s something we live out. If you aren’t sure if you have ever acted as if you are entitled to anything, then it’s even more likely that you have. Let’s wake up and smell our entitlement!

Rather than taking ourselves too seriously, we have to laugh at our own foolishness in this area. There is sin that is common unto man, and this is only one of many. I think it’s important to be more self-aware of our sinful nature, so that we can do something about it, rather than pretend it doesn’t exist in us. A little grieving is healthy. A lot of guilt is not. As Paul puts it, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15 (ESV) Salvation does not eradicate sin in our lives. It gives us the power to see it for what it is and be free of it through Christ. This is not cut and dried. It is the journey of faith. Scripture actually calls it a fight.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

1 Timothy 6:11, 12 (NIV)

Just confessing in front of believers that you are a follower of Christ isn’t enough. You have to fight. Fighting isn’t a pleasant thing. It involves sweat, aggression and usually some blood. Personally I don’t enjoy fighting at all. I feel more like a lover, than a fighter. LOL.

BUT, there it is. If we want to follow Jesus, we have to get in the fight against our sin nature so that the Spirit can rule in us. Part of this fight is coming against our tendency to take our blessings for granted and see ourselves as entitled to such treasures. Treasures like hope, love, peace of heart and mind. Obviously, we didn’t earn this booty by choosing Christ. He offered it to us despite ourselves, because of the sacrifice of the only one entitled to anything, Christ, the perfect one.

Jesus puts his finger on our entitled tendencies with this parable,

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

Substitute the fasting and tithing part with your own good works, since most of us Christians don’t do either one of those things nowadays anyway. (ouch) “I go to church. I don’t watch porn. I raise my hands during worship. I don’t cheat on my taxes.”= I’m a good person.

I love the wording in this verse, “confident of their own righteousness”. It sounds like Jesus wants us to feel more secure in his righteousness and less impressed with our own. It’s tough to embrace our own weaknesses because we don’t want to accept ourselves as such. Personally, I find my faults and flaws to be deplorable. I consider my character many times to be rude, crude and spiritually unacceptable. After twenty-nine years of following Jesus, I have to shake my head at my thought patterns and even more so at my actions which are wicked, sinful and ridiculous. Time for some humble pie and vigorous breastbeating I guess.

I am not mortified by myself. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the unconditional love and constant forgiveness that washes over me from God. I deserve nothing and get everything. He keeps cleaning me up and as a result I smell a lot better.

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Miraculous Eyeball Transplant

Okay, it is not yet medically or technologically possible to transplant an eyeball. That would be incredible, but what is possible is a spiritual eyeball transplant.

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as someone who unfairly judges or stereotypes others, but I find that for myself it happens automatically in a passive way. My vision is faulty. There are those I just quite naturally avoid, not because I am trying to be mean, but because I see them as different and therefore uncomfortable or undesirable to interact with. I have pigeonholed people based on their appearance and even more on their behavior. This ranges from the mentally ill to the high-powered businessman.

I gauge people around me according to how it works for me, which is obviously self-centered. My suggestion is that we tap into a pair of eyes that have not only x-ray vision, but see the best and see the greatest potential in everyone.

Being a spiritual person means having spiritual eyes that you use to look beyond circumstances, with a deeper knowledge of the spiritual world that is busy at work behind the scenes. We know that the spiritual world is more real than this physical world we see, touch, taste and smell. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Unfortunately, I think I get caught up in my own internal and external struggles so much that I miss the forest for the trees and end up walking more in the flesh than in the spirit. This can be especially true in how I see others around me.

In the Wisdom of Tenderness, Brennan Manning says, “Most of the time we’re wrong in our judgment of others. The tragedy is that our attention centers on what people are not, rather than what they are and who they might become.”

I remember talking to a volunteer after an outreach to the homeless that The Relief Bus was part of. She told me, “When you trained us how to talk to homeless people, I didn’t really believe that they would want to have anything to do with me. It turned out that I had some wonderful conversations tonight that were really meaningful.” Her eyes were opened to find out she had more in common with the homeless than she had imagined and that they not only wanted to talk with her, they liked her. A lot.

Our preconceptions are just that, preconceptions. I think most are subconscious and it is a good idea to recognize them and put them in a new light, the light of the gospel.

Relief Bus staffer Jim Berry is great at seeing people on the streets through God’s eyes

When I was a pastor of a church for the homeless called CityTribe, we spoke prophetically to our congregation, “We see you as pastors, teachers, prophets and healers.” We tried to see what could be in people and speak it out into the air to bring new vision.

Many people settle into the role that their family, friends and society paints for them. If they are told that they aren’t smart, they accept that. If they are told they can’t succeed, they live out that lifestyle.

Think of the people who saw more in you than you did in yourself. How might God use us to prophetically speak His heart into others, the way that someone else did for us? We then become nurses assisting God, the surgeon, in his spiritual eyeball transplants. My mother told me when I was sixteen that she thought I would make a great lead guitarist. I quickly told her how difficult and impossible that was. I was a beginner at the time and a terrible musician. Those words resonated in me however and I have now written hundreds of songs and played music all over the world.

Jesus spoke life and vision into people all the time. He told the irrepressible and many times flakey Peter that he was a rock. He called things that “be not as though they were.” He was able to do that because he had the Father’s perspective on people.

When we look at the poor, the sinner, the failure or even ourselves do we have God’s perspective? Is it time for the Lord to break the broken goggles we look through so that we can see clearly? Could we then help others to see as well? Let’s make an appointment in prayer for that spiritual eyeball transplant. I’m tired of being blind.

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Stress Killers

Stress is an epidemic in America today, causing all kinds of sickness, relationship problems and it can even lead to addiction. People spend thousands of dollars on everything from therapy, to medication to exercise to help handle their stress. There are two key pillars that stand out in the words and character of Jesus that are stress killers: Gentleness and Humility. It’s not obvious at first why, but let’s take a deeper look.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Gentleness and humility? It seems like a disappearing commodity in this world of hype, arrogance and endless self-promotion. It seems to be in direct contradiction to the “survival of the fittest” philosophy that many live by.

It is this verse that I keep coming back to when emotionally exhausted, spiritually depleted and disgusted with my own shortcomings. When I am consumed with myself and my own agendas, when I am growing increasingly short with my family members, and when things are generally turning ugly in my soul, these two words keep cycling in my mind: Gentleness and Humility.

Immediately I think of my external life, “I really need to be more gentle and humble to those around me.” Sounds good, but how do I change to accomplish that? The key is tapping into His gentleness and humility by first accepting His gentleness and humility towards me. I have to deal with myself internally so that out of His work in me I can demonstrate gentleness and humility towards others.

In The Wisdom of Tenderness, author Brennan Manning puts it this way,

“…accepted tenderness prevents us from being tyrants to ourselves, wreaking vengeance on ourselves, enslaving ourselves within the barriers of our fears. Those Christians who have interiorized the tenderness of God become less defensive, more simple and direct, more able to commit themselves, more aware but less afraid of the forces within and around them that drive home their littleness and insignificance.”

The truth is that many of us live in a constant state of disappointment with ourselves, “I should have…, I should be…”. I catch myself regularly setting unrealistic expectations for myself and grinding my teeth in frustration when I fail to fulfill them. How many times have you beat yourself up for falling short of your personal expectations? But who set those crazy standards in the first place? Hint: It probably wasn’t God.

When I look through God’s eyes at myself, I see his gentleness towards me. Knowing it is undeserved, my heart is melted by his tenderness. It changes me and helps me to stop judging others harshly, or stereotyping others unfairly. More than that, humility leads us to not just tolerate others more, but to actively love them. We begin to embody Romans 12:6, “Do not be proud, but associate with the lowly.” Our hectic, busy schedule has time for others when it is ruled by gentleness and humility.

Josiah Haken, new Relief Bus Outreach Director lives out gentleness and humility among the poor every week

Brennan Manning goes on to put it this way,

“It is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.”

“Humility and fraternal love are spiritual bedfellows. When we befriend our own brokenness and minister to our wounds with tenderness and compassion, the “other” is no longer an intruder but a fellow sufferer.”

This is how the shaping of our character works. God reconciles us to himself, and then to others. We can exercise, meditate and try to spend a lot of time distracting ourselves from stress, but there is a deeper work that God longs to do to shape us in the image of Christ. Rather than just rotating our coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, why not get to the root of the issue, which is in our hearts.

I will end this article with a second take on the scripture we started with.

“If you feel beat down and stressed out, let me help by giving you a way to relax and stop letting life drive you crazy. Learn from my example so you won’t get an ulcer. I’m laid back, nice to everybody and I don’t look down on anyone. If you live like I’m telling you to, you won’t be worried all the time and depressed.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Street Bible)

Juan Galloway is President of The Relief Bus/New York City Relief.

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Learning From the Z Man

Imagine if everything you did every day, every month and every year pleased God. Sounds awesome, but impossible doesn’t it? Amazingly, Jesus tells us directly and exactly how to achieve just that very thing.

So the Lord said to him: You Pharisees clean the outside of cups and dishes, but on the inside you are greedy and evil. You fools! Didn’t God make both the outside and the inside? If you would only give what you have to the poor, everything you do would please God. Luke 11:39-41 (CEV)

Wait a second…what? How and why is that the remedy? Let’s dig deeper.

Like the Pharisees, we all mask our sin to some extent and make excuses for ourselves, rationalizing our sins as “not that bad.” When I look at many of my past and present actions, I can definitely see what a fool I have been, and how un-Christlike I have been. In my mind I tend to minimize those behaviors in light of my lofty spiritual enlightenment. So did the Pharisees. They studied and memorized scripture, yet didn’t learn to live it, missing the point entirely.

Ever notice that we don’t naturally ever think of ourselves as greedy? I think that Jesus’ challenge to give what we have to the poor immediately starts to expose the greed we didn’t even know we had. Jesus spares no verbal strength when he lets loose some words on the corrupt religious leaders of his day. Yet even as he hammers them with the reality of their sin, he provides a clear path to freedom: “GIVE!”

He says, “…everything you do will please God.” Everything? Is Jesus exaggerating? Is that even possible? What does it mean for everything we do to please God? The NIV translates that same verse this way,” Everything will be clean for you.” The only way I know that everything can be clean for us is through grace. Evidently, stepping into a lifestyle of generosity is also stepping deeper into grace.

Grace sets us free from the insidious thoughts, feelings and habits that keep dragging us down and getting us in trouble. It doesn’t mean those thoughts or temptations go away and it doesn’t mean we quit sinning. It means that we can face our flawed and fractured lives without shame and guilt crushing us. From that position of freedom and intimacy with Christ, then He can do the transformational work in us that we long for. We get our lives focused on what matters and we get healthier. So how do we get to this deeper place of grace? Learn from the Z-man.

In Luke 19:8, the evil tax-collector Zacchaeus didn’t respond to an altar call to affirm his faith. He declared that he was going to turn from his ways to follow God in this way, “I will give half of my property to the poor. And I will now pay back four times as much to everyone I have ever cheated.” Unlike the Pharisees who were self-righteous and self-justified, Zacchaeus acknowledged he was a sinner and surrendered his old life completely, trading it in for a new identity where justice and generosity reigned. His story is included in scripture as a model of true life-transformation that we can follow. It is the diametric opposite of the encounter that Jesus had with the rich young ruler.

Maybe you don’t naturally feel a lot of compassion and don’t consider yourself to be much of a “bleeding heart”. I can relate. On the other hand, if we aren’t strategic about helping those around us, it just won’t happen. I am finding more and more people coming out to serve the poor and homeless on The Relief Bus ( as a family because they want to live out the values they hold. They want their children to get a taste of what a key aspect of living for Jesus looks like- helping the helpless. They are strategically pressing deeper into their faith, into grace and into the heart of God. As they give grace to “the least of these”, they also experience more of it for themselves.

Relief Bus Board member Jeff Wells and daughter Madison prepare soup for the homeless together

Jesus knows that a life focused on loving others is a life freed from the tyranny of self. Feeling this love in our hearts isn’t nearly as important as acting on this love for others. Many of us are waiting for an emotional feeling or spiritual epiphany to kick in that will inspire us to act. My experience is that emotional feeling or spiritual epiphany usually kicks in after I have already acted. It is then that I feel God’s change happening inside of me.

I resisted going on mission trips throughout my teenage life, because I didn’t want to miss out on all the goofing off, movies, water parks, etc. that I could enjoy every summer. At the age of 22, as a youth pastor, I nervously went on my first mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. It changed my life forever. I had such an intoxicating encounter with the Holy Spirit that I went on to go on another 8 mission trips over the years to England, Ireland, Wales, Ethiopia, Uganda, Colombia and Finland. Each one was different and impacting in it’s own way.

Little did I know that one day I would become a full-time urban missionary to the poor and homeless in New York City and New Jersey. Last year, The Relief Bus facilitated over 5,000 volunteers to go serve the broken on the streets. I heard many of these volunteers’ stories of life transformation AFTER they had served on the streets. During these stories, you could feel God’s presence in the room as they detailed who they met and what happened during those conversations. You could look into the person’s eyes and see change happening as they told of these encounters where they gave hope to the hopeless. Life was pouring into both of these individuals as they experienced God’s grace together. This is what Jesus wants for us! To experience true life and freedom together with the poor and brokenhearted!

A step towards helping the poor is a step towards freedom for ourselves. It’s a sign of our spiritual maturity. Nurturing a heart of generosity is nurturing the heart of God in us. Think about how to be generous with your time, your talent and your treasure and plug it into your calendar.

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The Lost Art of Friendship

It doesn’t take a lot of theological understanding to imitate Christ in the way He connected with people. Some of Jesus’ most powerful moments in ministry happened not in a service or ceremony, but simply over lunch or dinner.

In Tell It Slant, Pastor Eugene Peterson writes that, “ should not surprise us to find that hospitality is a prominent theme in the Travel Narrative metaphor that Luke uses to immerse us in a culture and among a people who don’t share the assumptions and practices of Jesus.

Jesus taught in the synagogues and preached in the temple, but settings of hospitality seemed to be Jesus’ venue of choice for dealing with kingdom matters.”

Hospitality is defined as, “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.” Whether Jesus was the host (feeding thousands) or the guest in someone’s home, people felt welcomed, accepted and loved by him. He thrived in these opportunities that served as incubators of relationship.

Austin Bonds, Director of Outreach at The Relief Bus, is a master of making friends on the streets.

People are social beings by nature. When we walk into new social situations, we quickly assess and adapt without even giving it much thought. We naturally gravitate towards people who are likeminded. We also gravitate towards that which we desire: beauty, power, control, etc. Jesus seemed to do just the opposite. He was the master of the art of friendship. He knew that simply presenting facts and spiritual truths to unbelievers was inadequate. He knew that the relational component was the key to reaching someone’s heart. In other words, “People need to know how much you care before they care how much you know.” It wasn’t so much his strategy as it was his nature to be intimate with others.

In The Top Ten Mistakes leaders Make by Hans Finzel, the author states that “Culture is the shared values and behavior that knit a community together. It’s the rules of the game; the unseen meaning between the lines in the rule book that assures unity.”

Strangely, Jesus breaks many of his cultural rules to follow the heart of God.

Eugene Peterson goes on to say, “In the simple, everyday act of sitting down with others at meals, Jesus aroused enormous hostility. There were rigid rules in the world Jesus lived in that were inviolable. Jesus violated them. There were strong prohibitions against eating with unsavory people-outsiders such as tax collectors, prostitutes, and people who didn’t keep up the appearances of religious propriety (“sinners”). Jesus ate with them.”

What has happened to us as the American church where we have become so knowledgeable and educated in scripture and yet so stunted in our ability to build friendships? This was Jesus’ “evangelism strategy”. Actually it was just his lifestyle. Jesus was a friend to sinners (Luke 7:34) It can’t be that simple can it?

Young people from all over America come out on The Relief Bus to befriend the homeless in NYC.

Jesus truly was a people person who would not let his religious or social culture define him. For an introvert like me, I find this very challenging. Yet I know I need this aspect of the “Jesus life” to grow, mature and be complete in my faith walk. I am stretching myself to build friendships with others not like me, a Muslim man from Afghanistan who runs my local fried chicken place, elderly neighbors, the waiters and waitresses at my local diner, homeless people living in Penn Station. I push myself to build relationship because I know this is what kingdom life is about. I can’t allow my comfort or even my temperament to define me. I’m not very good at it, but I take one baby step at a time. Each time I do it I feel the heart of Christ growing in me.

If we are truly followers of Jesus, it’s time to get over the “us and them” mentality and learn the lost art of friendship.

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Blessed Are The Poor?

As I was reading Luke 6:20, I came upon this verse once again that states, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” This is a perplexing scripture for many. When I think of the blessing of poverty I think, “I don’t want that blessing very much!”

As an urban missionary who works regularly with the homeless in New York City, I see much of the curse of poverty: homeless families who had to celebrate Christmas while living in a shelter. No work and no security. This photo is a picture of me with a family in exactly that situation: Louis, his wife Genesis and their son A.J. It broke my heart to see this young family struggling to make it.

How are they blessed to be poor? As the chapter goes on it says,

“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

As Jesus speaks these radical, unorthodox words I believe that those listening were amazed because as they looked into Jesus’ eyes they saw the meaning: God had not forgotten them, he was in love with them, his favor was upon them. Unlike the culture surrounding them that looked down at them and disdained them, God saw them as precious. Jesus demolished the class system that honored the rich and despised the poor. Jesus was declaring that God had not forgotten them. He had plans to give them the best he had- his kingdom, his satisfaction, and his pure joy. Let me give you an example.

One day recently I was in the Bronx, one of the most impoverished areas in the United States, serving on The Relief Bus. It was a freezing cold day. Even the pigeons were getting aggressive that day on the street. Out of desperate hunger they were flying right up to our tables on the sidewalk to snatch the bread that people were eating.

Along came a special needs kid, eleven-years-old, named Eliza. Her family is homeless and for some reason she wasn’t attending school that day. She begged her mother to allow her to volunteer on the bus and she agreed. Eliza shouted out with joy to every hungry person with a huge smile plastered on her face, offering everyone a cup of hot chocolate. I have truly never seen a more enthusiastic volunteer. The two ladies in the picture came to volunteer from the Walter Hoving Home. They are there as part of a Christian rehabilitation/discipleship program. They know what the challenges of poverty and addiction are all about firsthand. Every month ladies from this program drive an hour and a half to come serve in the cold with us and they LOVE it! Financially, I can imagine that they don’t have much right now, however the treasure they bring in their souls is palatable. They smile, laugh and serve with zeal.

If Eliza and these ladies aren’t blessed, then I don’t know what blessed is! What I see in them is what I want most- more of Jesus.

They are entering that blessing as they live out verse 35, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Jesus give lots of warnings on how dangerous it is to be wealthy and what trouble it can get you into, pulling your heart away from what is important. Without the shackles of wealth, these people are free to focus on other, more lasting treasure as they embody verse 38:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

I was taught in church as a child that this verse meant I should give more money to the church so that I could then get more money and stuff for myself. It makes me laugh to think about that now as I read this in context! Jesus is trying to free us from that kind of thinking by engaging us in his kingdom. He longs to bless us with his heart, his compassion, his mercy, his freedom and joy. What price can you put on these things? The poor are not blessed because they are poor, but they are blessed because God loves them completely and unconditionally. That is a blessing available to us all. Let us dive in together, throwing ourselves headlong into this amazing, undeserved favor.

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Maximum Horsepower by Juan Galloway

Imagine mounting a horse in the dark in the wee hours of the morning in order to ride hundreds of miles through the country to meet with a tiny congregation waiting for you to arrive, to bring them a message of hope and truth. Then imagine after ministering to the group, getting back on that same horse and pushing on to the next town where yet another group is waiting for you.

Wikipedia describes circuit rider preachers this way:

“They traveled with few possessions, carrying only what could fit in their saddlebags. They traveled through wilderness and villages, they preached every day at any place available (peoples’ cabins, courthouses, fields, meeting houses, later even basements and street corners).

“Many circuits were so large that it would take 5 to 6 weeks to cover them. The ministerial activity of the circuit riders boosted Methodism into the largest Protestant denomination at the time. In 1784, there were 14,986 members and 83 traveling preachers. By 1839, the denomination had grown to 749,216 members served by 3,557 traveling preachers and 5,856 local preachers.”

My great-grandfather, O.L. Galloway (short for Obe Lee) was a circuit rider preacher for some time in the state of Oklahoma where I grew up. My great-great-grandfather, Walter Klopfenstein, was also a circuit riding preacher in Oklahoma. Both of them traveled to minister to rural families who were very poor. The tiny congregations would donate clothing in the “missionary barrel” to help clothe and support these country preachers.

Little did these men know the heritage that they would pass down to their families. Their grandson and my father, Richard Galloway founded The Relief Bus 21 years ago. This missionary organization, where I serve as Executive Director, is a modern-day version of the circuit rider that brings hope and help to wherever it’s needed.

Each week The Relief Bus travels into the poorest neighborhoods in New York City and New Jersey. (10 outreach locations a week!) The buses bring not only food, clothing and resources to the urban wilderness, but spiritual care as well.

We know that people in dire straits don’t just need a handout, they need a friend as well. As homeless people struggle to get back on their feet, they need someone to give them encouragement and inspiration.

The Relief Bus doesn’t have a big cross painted on it, and there is no billboard telling people to turn to Jesus, but make no mistake, it is a spiritual sanctuary. In the month of July, 2010 the staff of The Relief Bus recorded 47 decisions for Christ. The average church in America records three conversions a year.

These buses distributed 189 Bibles and prayed for 903 people that same month. How many churches are able to make that kind of impact in just one month? The truth is, The Relief Bus is just a big metal horse for people to ride into the city and bring a message of hope. It’s a way for church folks to get outside of the four walls and accomplish their mission.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. There is a still a need for modern-day circuit riders, mobile outreaches that will travel to those who are in desperate need of life and freedom.

So what are you waiting for? Jump on this horse and hold on tight because it’s a wild ride. Volunteer on The Relief Bus as an individual or come with a group. Just email us at Yeeha!

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